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Richmond Bans Cell Phone Use While Driving

Patty Kruszewski, whose daughter was killed by a distracted driver in 2012
Patty Kruszewski, whose daughter was killed by a distracted driver in 2012, urges Richmond City Council to pass a band on cell phone use while driving Monday night. (Photo: Roberto Roldan/VPM)

Drivers seen holding their phone while driving can soon expect to get a ticket if they’re in the City of Richmond.

Richmond City Council voted unanimously to ban all hand-held cell phone use for drivers at its meeting Monday night. Texting and emailing while driving is already illegal under Virginia law, but all other uses remain legal. Advocates for stricter regulation say that makes it basically unenforceable. 

City Council heard from a number of residents that spoke in favor of the cell phone ban, including Patty Kruszewski. Her daughter Lanie was killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2012 while biking home from work. 

Kruszewski urged Richmond City Council to pass the ordinance.

“Lanie was the type of giving human being the world needs more of, but her life was cut short by someone who chose to amuse himself by texting as he drove,” Kruszewski said. “The police want hands-free legislation, the public wants it, and insurance companies and road safety groups want it. It’s too late to save Lanie, but I assure you she wants it too.”

Under the new ordinance proposed by Mayor Levar Stoney, anyone caught holding a cellphone while driving will be ticketed $150 for a first offense and $250 after that. The cell phone ban does not apply when a car is parked or if someone is using their phone to report an emergency.

In a statement Monday night, Stoney said the ordinance would help move the city toward its Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities.

"A holistic Vision Zero plan requires engineering, education, and enforcement,” Stoney said. “Prohibiting the use of a cell phone while driving is necessary to change both ingrained attitudes and dangerous habits.”

The new ordinance is expected to take effect in June 2020. 

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